INTRODUCTION: This installment is the first of a three-part series telling the first-person account of 20-year-old foster sister Ashlee Welch. Ashlee and her brother Tanner were in high school when their parents, Lisa and John, decided to foster Israel and become a fully-licensed Baptist Children’s Homes’ foster family.
When you are born into a stereotypical southern family, it’s one daughter, one son, a mom and a dad, grandparents on both sides, home cooked meals, church on Sundays, and lots of football. I was born and raised in a small town here in North Carolina, about 30 minutes from the Georgia line, and about an hour and a half west from the nearest “big city.” Dad was born and raised there, same as his father before him and so on.
My dad met Mom when he attended Denver Auto Diesel College in Colorado. One of his buddies lived in the same apartment complex where Mom and her roommates lived. Skipping all the sappy stuff, they met, Dad brought flowers, a few months later they were engaged, and then they married. Back home, Dad built an automotive shop from the ground up. Mom finished up her teaching degree at Western Carolina University and around the age of 30 for them, they finally had me.
Hi, my name’s Ashlee, the firstborn. Two years after me, a snotty little boy they named Tanner came along. Tanner was born with epilepsy. It was a bit of a struggle when it came to medicines and doctor appointments. As Tanner grew, his seizures lessened and he got a new neurologist who wanted to test and see what the results would be if they took him off of his medication completely. He was originally told that he would not be able to drive or play sports due to his seizures unless he was five years seizure-free—if he had another one, that clock would restart. The doctor was right.
Now seven years later, he is seizure free, drives a car, is an avid member of the high school band, and is planning to head to college next year. Tanner and I were raised in a typical southern Baptist church, in a majority southern Baptist town. Dad was raised in church and introduced Mom to the church when they came to North Carolina. My great aunt was the one who mostly raised my Dad throughout his teen and young adult life. She taught Dad how to garden, how to can vegetables, how to cook, how to sew, how to drive, and how to hunt. She taught him about flowers, and how to do well in school—and she taught him about God.
Because of his upbringing and Mom’s introduction to Southern ways, Dad and Mom decided to raise their children in church. They made sure to offer their two children the opportunities that they did not have growing up—like going to the aquarium and Disney World, playing sports, and having big birthday parties. But they also taught us the little things that added all together made us who we are today at 20 and 18 years old. We learned to be compassionate, to work hard for the things we want, and to remember where all of it comes from and be grateful. Tanner and I have always been social kids.
When the Drake Cottage boys attended church with us on Wednesday nights, Tanner would talk to the boys his age. Drake Cottage is in our hometown and operated by Baptist Children’s Homes (BCH). Drake Cottage is a group home where up to nine boys can call home when they are going through tough times. One Wednesday, the houseparents introduced us to a new boy and his older brother. Israel and Eshawn came from a big city an hour and a half away. The boys had been raised by a single mom who suffered from drug addiction.
Eshawn turned 18 and moved out on his own, but Israel was much younger and stayed at Drake Cottage. Tanner and Israel were born almost a month apart, so they were placed together in classes at school and very quickly became good friends. Israel was a very bright and had a great love for football. Tanner and Israel’s friendship grew and my parents decided to look into becoming a resource family for Israel—that meant Israel would be
allowed to stay with us for 72-hour periods. These were typically what we called weekend visits.
Israel’s BCH case worker, Crystal Killian (a very lovely lady with a young boy of her own), led Mom and Dad through the process for us to become Israel’s visiting resource. There were a handful of requirements and some changes needed to be made to our home. First, we turned Mom’s sewing room into a bedroom for Israel. Dad had to secure the hunting equipment and medications were locked in a cabinet. We then spent the better half of a year doing these 72-hour visits. Israel went on trips with us to my swim meets and his football games. The every-day living together brought us ever so close, building a relationship that prompted my parents to consider foster care.
Read the rest of the story here:
By Ashlee Welch, Foster Sister